The Greenwood Community Theatre recently gave a special Thursday performance of “Willy Wonka: The Musical” specifically for underserved young residents.
“We wanted to have 300 people that would not ever be able to afford to come to a show,” executive director Stephen Gilbert said. The staff contacted several groups, including La Puerta, GLEAMNS Human Resources Commission, Core 3, the YMCA High Hopes program and Community Initiatives. Gilbert worked with the children and families from each group.
“Within two days, we had filled up the theater and we were able to put on a show on March 12,” Gilbert said.
While other groups called to participate, Gilbert said he didn’t have room for them.
“The reception to it was overwhelming,” he said. “That night, we talked to a lot of children. A lot of them had not been to a movie much less a theater. It was disheartening to know that many children had never been in a theater.”
Gilbert said he thinks everyone should be able to see shows at the community theater.
“After that night, we knew we were on to something bigger,” he said. “We had to make it a priority to expose the arts to children who have no means of exposure.”
Since then, Gilbert said he talked to representatives of several businesses and corporations.
“We want to get grants to fund scholarships to allow us to do three to four of these per year.” Gilbert is in the planning stages to do this again during the “Shrek” performance.
“We want to have a dedicated night to groups of the underserved population,” he said.
He said he communicated with Greenwood dentist Tommy Stoddard, Duke Energy, Capsugel and Covidien. According to Gilbert, all of them expressed interest in or are providing funding for this program.
“That’s how powerful it was to see the smiles on these children’s faces when they walked out,” Gilbert said.